Though the most famous of movie spies, Bond is simply carrying on a cherished tradition of espionage in films and TV, where subterfuge, high-stakes action, and tackling a bevy of femme fatales are all part of the character's job description.
By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
At left: Ronald Colman is in a sticky situation with Lilyan Tashman in "Bulldog Drummond" (1929), the first Drummond talkie. Colman earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
The character was reintroduced in a Bond take-off "Deadlier Than the Male" (1965) in which Drummond goes after two curvaceous female assassins.
Escaping arrest, he embarks on a cross-country chase to uncover a spy ring, on the lookout for a foreign agent who reportedly is missing part of his little finger - wait, is that . . . OH NO!!!!!!
In "Saboteur" (1942), Robert Cummings (here with Priscilla Lane) plays a hunted man wrongly accused of sabotage, on the trail of the real saboteurs. The chase leads to the very top of the Statue of Liberty, where it's a long fall down . . .
But the espionage was less important than the romance between the two leads in what was one of the director's most erotically-charged films.
And who can possibly help him, as he is chased by plane-riding gunmen and assassins all the way to the very edge of Mount Rushmore? The mysterious Eva Marie Saint, who isn't what she appears to be . . .
It was the first film adaptation of a John le Carre novel, and also starred Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, Sam Wanamaker, Cyril Cusack, and Rupert Davies as George Smiley. The film earned Burton an Oscar nomination, and won BAFTA Awards for Best Film and Best Actor.
One change made from le Carre's novel: The character of Burton's girlfriend had her name changed from Liz to Nan - to avoid possible confusion with Burton's real-life lover, Liz Taylor.
Directed by John Frankenheimer by a novel by Richard Condon ("Prizzi's Honor"), the film was rarely seen for years following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, leading to rumors that star Frank Sinatra had suppressed it.
The low-budget actioner was a hit, leading to increasingly bigger budgets - much of its spent in the gadget department.
Bond: "Do you expect me to talk?"
Goldfinger: "No, Mr. Bond! I expect you to die!"
The show also busted budgets by filming on international locations, like the Bond films, rather than remaining confined on a Hollywood backlot.
One of Britain's top exports in the 1960s was the spy series "The Avengers," starring Patrick Macnee as dapper English agent John Steed. He was accompanied at turns by Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale (left); Diana Rigg as Emma Peel (center); and Linda Thorson as Tara King.
The show mixed fantastic storylines, deftly-staged action, humor and revealing costumes for the female stars.
Patrick MacGoohan had already starred in a popular espionage show, "Danger Man" (U.S. title "Secret Agent"), which he followed up with "The Prisoner" (1967-68), a cunning look at a retired agent's battle with mysterious forces who want him to talk.
Kidnapped to an isolated spot known as The Village, Number Six (MacGoohan) is trapped by a deadly, roaring bubble and is under constant surveillance. "The Prisoner" comprised a single season of 17 episodes, each a duel between Number Six and a steady stream of Number Twos who try to break him.
A heady mix of psychological probings and individualism ("I am not a number, I am a free man!"), the show remains one of the best ever televised.
Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the show ran for five years on NBC and then CBS, and later spun off a feature film, "The Nude Bomb." The show was recently rebooted as a feature film starring Steve Carell.
Led by Peter Graves (top, who replaced the first season's team leader), the cast included (clockwise) Martin Landau, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus and Barbara Bain. Later seasons featured in the cast Leonard Nimoy, Lesley Ann Warren, and Lynda Day George. A series re-boot and movie franchise followed.
Lazenby did make a cameo appearance in a 1983 TV movie, playing a secret agent driving a car with the license plates JB.
A big hit, "Nikita" spawned a Hollywood remake ("Point of No Return," starring Bridget Fonda) and a TV series.
Matt Damon's believable performance and Doug Liman's taut direction of the 2002 film led to two well-received sequels, and now a spin-off, "The Bourne Legacy," starring Jeremy Renner following in Damon's footsteps.
Following "Quantum of Solace," Craig is now filming his third Bond outing, "Skyfall."
Tom Cruise's IMF agent Ethan Hunt scales the tallest building in the world, Dubai's Burj Khalifa, in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol."
In a stripped-down adaptation, spies turn their eyes on one another as Smiley must uncover the Soviet mole within the British Secret Service. The film has been included in Sight & Sound magazine's poll of international critics as one of the year's best films.
By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan